Do I Accept Christ or Does He Accept Me?
Recently, I was corresponding with a young man that no one in the church knows, and I asked him this question: How is a person saved from hell and guaranteed a place in heaven for all eternity? To which the young man (who, by the way, stated that he was a Baptist preacher) answered: "A person is saved from hell by accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior. After doing this in order to guarantee a place in heaven for all eternity, you must live your life in a way that would please God." What do you think of his answer? Are you ok with it? What would you correct, if anything? Let’s start with his first sentence: "A person is saved from hell by accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior." May I suggest that his word choice of "accept" is unfortunate? And the reason I say "accept" is not the right word to use is because we can’t find that terminology being used in any evangelistic encounters in the NT. Instead, the word that is used most often is "believe." Accept and believe are not the same and cannot be considered equivalent. I accept the fact that it might rain today, or I accept your invitation to dinner. However, nowhere in the Bible are there any suggestions that we accept Christ. In fact, it is just the opposite. He accepts us into the body of Christ (Eph 1:6, KJV). While it is true that one must accept the gospel as truth in order to be saved, mere acknowledgement of the Gospel does not save. James 2:19 tells us "the devils also believe, and tremble"; only true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on our behalf justifies the believer. First, I want to define "faith" to ensure that you understand that it is not the same as "accepting." Again, my acknowledgement of the fact that Christ died on a cross for my sins is not the same as putting my faith in Christ as my Lord and Savior. The former is different from the latter. When I have faith in something, I am expressing my confident assurance in the reality of its existence. To accept the fact that a ladder will hold my weight is not the same as standing on that ladder and trusting in it to sustain me. While you may think that this difference is just a matter of semantics, a careful study of Scripture reveals that the Bible doesn’t agree with you. Second, I want to expand on the idea of saying one "accepts" Christ as Savior. The Bible teaches that one believes in the gospel to be saved. This sounds simple, but the reason I emphasize this is because faith in a Christ who did not die and was not resurrected is not sufficient for salvation. The only Christ that can save you from hell is the Christ; He is the Son of God, who was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified, buried, and rose again on the third day. Any other Christ simply will not do. A person is saved when he or she puts his or her faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). When a believer shares the gospel, Jesus Christ must be the central character of the story—the Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried, and rose from the grave on the third day for our sins ("our" pertains to the recipient of the gospel and to all who believe). This, of course, implies that believers recognize themselves as sinners in need of a savior, which is an indispensible component to becoming a born-again follower of Christ. Finally, we must take exception to our young friend’s final statement: "After doing this in order to be guaranteed a place in heaven for all eternity, you must live your life in a way that would please God." Are you ok with this statement? Does my living a life pleasing to God guarantee me a place in heaven? Of course the answer is an emphatic "no!" It is Christ, and Christ alone, who secures my position in heaven for all eternity; He is the One who redeemed me; His shed blood on Calvary’s cross freed me from my bondage to death; He grants eternal life to all who believe. Jesus said: "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:15). Notice that this is not a conditional expression. Jesus did not say, "whosoever believes in me and lives a life that is pleasing to my Father will be granted eternal life." On the cross Jesus declared, "It is finished." If my eternal life is conditionally based on the life that I live, then I may rightly ask: "What was finished on the cross?" Certainly, the salvation of the elect was not finished because God would then be waiting to see if each of the elect lives a life that is pleasing to Him. Following that premise, one may logically ask—how pleasing is pleasing enough? I know that I don’t live a life that is pleasing to God at all times. While I try to live a life that is pleasing to God, and I recognize the importance of living a life that is pleasing to God, I know that I don’t do it consistently enough. Therefore, I am thrilled that my eternal life is not dependent upon my behavior being pleasing to God! Instead, it was the Father who was pleased to accept the Son’s work on the cross on my behalf, and I am trusting in that good news—are you?
Posted by Pastor Sean